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Are the A’s too myopic in their focus on Las Vegas?

Rob Manfred says that the A’s focus has been on Las Vegas rather than fixing the infrastructure problems that they have in Oakland. He is right.

Rob Manfred says that the A’s focus has been on Las Vegas rather than fixing the infrastructure problems that they have in Oakland.
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On day one of Spring training, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred laid out a few home truths for the media regarding the proposed move of the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas.

Noting that he would support A’s owner John Fisher in whatever decision that he ultimately made, Manfred was clear that the push to leave the Bay Area wasn’t all one-sided.

“I don’t think they are in agreement on the affordable housing issue,” Manfred said. “The threshold issue right now I think in Oakland is how to handle the funding for the infrastructure.”

The Oakland A’s have been trying get the green light from the city to build a $1 billion waterfront ballpark as part of a bigger $12 billion Howard Terminal project. The city have introduced a long list of obstacles to the project, generally stemming around the availability of affordable housing, and exacerbated the situation by missing their own self-imposed September 30 deadline to reach a deal with the A’s.

In the meantime, the ball club have been making trips to Las Vegas to sound out the possibilities of upping sticks, and if reports are to trusted, they have found a far more welcoming city council.

“I think Mr. Fisher wants to make the best deal to secure the future of the A’s, whether it’s in Oakland or in Las Vegas,” says Manfred. “They need a new stadium. I think that’s kind of beyond debate.”

Oakland City Council had approved its own version of a development agreement for the project, which was rejected by the A’s. While Oakland mayor, Sheng Thao, has stated that the city had resumed talks with the A’s for a new stadium at Howard Terminal, she would not discuss any details. Rob Manfred admits that he hasn’t personally spoken to they mayor or her office.

Throwing a fly in the ointment of any seamless Las Vegas transfer is the revelation that any move would almost certainly require some form of public assistance, again with details thin on the ground. Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo has already stated he would not raise taxes to lure the team to the state, but noted they could be eligible for other economic development programs.

“Those negotiations are so early in the process that it would be detrimental for me to even talk about any details,” says Lombardo. “Right now it’s all been ancillary conversations.”

Moving cities, particularly out of state, is not to be undertaken lightly. You risk losing your current fan base, and antagonizing the league, players, and other owners, if it is not handled delicately. With fan opinion currently dead-set against John Fisher, he needs to tread carefully in these negotiations.

The feeling that he has already set his sights on the Strip, and is looking for any excuse to jump into bed with casino owners, is one that could taint the team for generations to come. It took the Dodgers over two decades to recover from doing just such a thing to Brooklynites. And while the long-term rewards are there, it could be a long road to get your hands on them.

There must be a middle ground on the Oakland proposal. It is time for both Mayor Thao and John Fisher to active look for it, rather than both posturing and calling each others’ bluff. The A’s fans deserve better.


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